One could be forgiven for getting the impression that the Churches of England and Rome are in some sort of contest, with the world title in lefty subversiveness at stake.
First the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a declaration calling for a low-carbon economy, an initiative avidly supported by other faith leaders. Score one for the Anglicans.
Then Pope Francis, having first anathematised capitalism, delivered himself of a 192-page encyclical demanding that political leaders pass tougher climate laws because the Earth is becoming “an immense pile of filth”. Score even.
And now the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Rev Nicholas Holtam, reclaims the lead for the Anglicans by telling them to skip lunch on the first day of each month, thereby saving ‘our planet’ from melting away.
The General Synod, to meet next month, will rubber-stamp the motion, which also includes a demand for “ministerial formation and in-service training to include components of ecojustice and ecotheology”. Such training is to be provided in addition to studying the Bible, not yet – as will surely be the case soon – instead of it.
I too have a motion, or rather a recommendation, of my own. Whenever someone refers to the Earth as ‘our planet’, punch him in the face. As he lies dazed on the floor, explain to him why the punishment was meted out.
Are our church leaders out of their tree? There is no such thing as ecojustice or ecotheology. There may be some anthropogenic warming going on at the moment, and a good job too.
However, by far the greatest effect on climate comes from solar activity, which is why ‘our planet’ has always gone through periods of warmer and colder weather.
There were grapes growing in Scotland in Caesar’s time, which betokens a warmer climate than it is now – and yet in those days people didn’t drive cars, didn’t have thermostats, never saw aerosol sprays and hadn’t yet identified global warming as the root of all evil.
Also, think of the pollution problem that would arise if each of the three million London cars were replaced by a horse. Why, one wouldn’t be able to walk the streets without a gas mask, and theology would be even further away from people’s minds than it is now.
The theological source of ecological wisdom is Genesis 1: 28-30, which in broad strokes tells us that everything on earth has been created for the use and benefit of man. Now I have news for our prelates: almost everything man does to make use of God’s gifts releases temperature into the atmosphere.
The greatest (and earliest) release comes from tilling the land and turning the soil to grow “every herb bearing seed”. This global-warming activity has been going on for rather a long time, proving that God didn’t create us to be ecology-obsessed cretins.
That scientific and industrial progress has some polluting effect that so vexes His Holiness is true – and he should pray that long may it continue. Before the Industrial Revolution, the average life expectancy was between 30 and 40 years. Now, by the mercy of God and as a direct result of modern science, it’s between 80 and 90.
Surely God doesn’t want us to die before our time? Well, then He must be happy that man has learned to look after himself so well. How He feels about our Catholic and Anglican prelates is, however, open to question.
I doubt that Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby or Bishop Holtam know enough science to form a firm view on such subjects on their own. Clearly, they must rely on the judgement of scientists.
In that case they ought to know that ‘global warming’ has the unique distinction of being the only discovery in the history of science made not by scientists but by a political organisation, specifically the UN.
The likelihood of a scientist supporting this theory is directly proportionate to the size of the grant said scientist receives from the UN, its branches or other similar political setups. Scientists who receive no such grants and are therefore independent tend to punch holes the size of St Peter’s basilica in this slapdash theory.
His Holiness, who is institutionally obligated to be concerned about the plight of the poor, should also remember that the acuteness of such plight is inversely proportionate to the amount of capitalism in the country – the more capitalism, the less poverty, and the other way around.
As to taking fasting out of its normal religious context and putting it into one of radical left-wing politics, Bishop Holtam ought to be ashamed of himself.
I have an idea: perhaps he ought to demand that the Church of England convert to Russian Orthodoxy. If the prescriptions of that confession are followed religiously, as it were, the communicants are supposed to have at least 200 fasting days in a year.
That’s something to ponder in the future, but in the meantime the leaders of our Western confessions ought to remind themselves of what they were brought into this world to do.
Their remit is to save souls, not ‘our planet’. The two desiderata are not only not identical, but in fact mutually exclusive. Are they bright enough to realise this? I’m beginning to doubt that.